Status of the Biocode

B.J.Tindall bti at DSMZ.DE
Thu Feb 6 08:13:16 CST 2003

Just to make sure that we do not appear to disagree I raised points to
which Richard has now outlined the good practical reasons for "indexing"
and maintaining links to synonyms. I think one of the major problems in
zoology and botany is that there is a justified fear that "modernising
systematics" will mean throwing 250 years of background out of the window.
In creating a new starting date in bacteriology we were careful to maintain
that link to the valuable literature of the past. If you don't you have
To those of you who will make use of Article 79 good luck - the
bacteriological equivalent can be found at:

At 17:49 5.2.2003 -1000, Richard Pyle wrote:
>> I have to disagree with Richard on the topic of Species 2000 (and perhaps
>> other lists). My contact with this group indicates that the lists should
>> contain only one name per species (i.e. synonyms are not
>> anticipated in the
>> system).
>No, I know...but the point is, these efforts have already compiled "lists"
>of names with their associated objective data (original description
>citations, authorship, etc.).  Granted, they are a SUBSET of existing names
>(i.e., they focus on just those particular names that happen to be currently
>regarded by someone or another as "valid" or "in current use"; and tend not
>to dwell on names widely regarded as "junior synonyms").  Some of the
>efforts (e.g. Catalog of Fishes) do not limit themselves only to "valid" or
>"in current use" names -- and indeed extend to ALL names that are
>"Code-compliant" (="available"/"validly published"); and even include names
>that are objective synonyms as well. But the point is, these efforts
>represent a start.  How willing these various list-holders are to transfer
>the fruits of their extraordinarily expensive and laborious efforts into the
>public domain is another issue, for which the list-holders themselves are
>justifiably in the position to decide.
>> I think what the end user community is asking taxonomy for at
>> present is to tell them which of the 5 synonyms which have appeared in the
>> last 250 years is the "proper" one to use.
>Yes -- that's been the focus...and for good practical reason (e.g., limited
>biodollars, priority needs, etc.).  When I bring up the point for including
>"non-valid" names (=names not used to represent a distinct taxonomic concept
>in recent years), people often respond, "Who, besides the nerdy taxonomists,
>care about all those synonyms?"  The fact is, EVERYONE who uses the Linnaean
>system of nomenclature SHOULD care!!! And here's why:
>As has been said on recent posts to this list, the strength of the Linnaean
>system of nomenclature is its 250-year legacy of data.  It has served as the
>contextual backbone upon which all this biological data is referenced.  If
>we put blinders on and focus only on those names that happen to be regarded
>as representing valid taxa today, then we miss out on all that legacy data
>that was referenced in the context of names that now happen to be regarded
>as non-valid.  If we are to claim access to this 250-year history of
>biological data, we need a way to reference it in the context of today's
>nomenclature.  So what we need, FIRST, is an INDEX of ALL names; upon which
>we can build a second-tier index (=thesaurus) of how those names have been
>used by different people over time, and thereby "reclaim" all the historical
>legacy data that exist in the context of names that don't happen to be
>regarded as valid by the experts du joir.
>Thanks also to Chris Thompson for your thoughtful reply on this topic!  In
>particular, thank you for bringing up what I had hoped would get brought up
>in response to my post:
>> As for existing names, the zoological code does now provide a mechanism
>> for registration (indexing). That is, the List of Available Names in
>> Zoology (Article 79). So if the fish community, for example, wants they
>> can propose that Bill's list be adopted by the ICZN, etc. Then the only
>> existing names that you would have to worry about are those on that
>> list.  I do not believe any group has yet to even thought about using
>> this new provision.
>This is a PERFECT set up -- whether you intended to be so, or not! :-)
>There is, in fact, at least one group that has thought about using this new
>provision for this purpose -- and indeed, it is the very group you mention.
>I refer you to NSF DBI-0208690:
>I've also heard that the beetle taxonomers are pursuing a similar invocation
>of Article 79.
>Part of the reason for my previous post on this was to "hose down" the
>"battlefield" with water prior to striking the match.  To avoid unnecessary
>fires, I wanted to clarify the distinction between an authoritarian "species
>concept registration" system, and a coordinated[*] species name "Indexing"
>effort, before making noise (once again) about perhaps moving forward on the
>Doug Yanega brought it up a few days ago in his cross-posting from the ICZN
>list... but not many people took the bait.  I wanted to keep it going with a
>sort of round-about suggestion.  A big problem that I see with making
>"Indexing" (sensu Thompson) a *requirement* of the Code (sensu Yanega), is
>that you cannot require something when an infrastructure to support it has
>not already been established.
>Thus, as Chris mentioned, the draft ICZN code opted to rely on the existing
>infrastructure already in place at BIOSIS (i.e., Zoological Record).  For
>whatever they political, practical, or irrational....the idea
>was shot down.  Personally, I still believe that BIOSIS (Zoo. Record) would
>be a highly logical infrastructure to support such a names "Indexing"
>effort -- and maybe we can re-kindle the idea.  But another alternative,
>which is not mutually exclusive, is to consider the "Article 79" approach
>(within Zoology, at least) for building such an Index within the context of
>the existing Code.  Perhaps, if more taxonomists followed the lead of Bill
>Eschmeyer (see NSF link above) and established such lists for other groups,
>there might be a slight shift in the foundation of taxonomy as it is
>practiced, such that more and more people would start to look towards the
>ICZN index as the genesis of a more broadly utilized "names"
>registr...errr...indexing mechanism.  With adequate financial support (the
>universal caveat), perhaps ICZN itself could move towards a structured
>electronic version of the Official Index of Available Names, and we can all
>rally around *IT* as the taxonomic flag-pole for an electronic
>infrastructure of names. But the point is, an infrastructure can be
>developed and tested in "real-time" without impeding taxonomic process
>until...before anyone knows becomes a defacto part of taxonomic
>It won't be easy, and it won't happen over night -- but maybe, just maybe --
>it represents a viable (and politically palatable) pathway towards something
>that all of us (most of us) seem to want to head towards.
>[*]I've learned to never, never use the word "centralized" in certain
>company....sort of like "Registration"....
>Richard L. Pyle
>Ichthyology, Bishop Museum
>1525 Bernice St., Honolulu, HI 96817
>Ph: (808)848-4115, Fax: (808)847-8252
>email: deepreef at
>"The opinions expressed are those of the sender, and not necessarily those
>of Bishop Museum."

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